The Energy Research Accelerator (ERA) is working to support thermal and cryogenic research and is both investing in and utilising a number of facilities. These include:
Highview Liquid Air Energy Storage Facility
The UK’s first dedicated research facility for energy storage using cryogenic liquids, opened at the University of Birmingham in 2015. The technology can integrate waste heat or cold from industrial processes to increase the system’s overall efficiency to over 70%.
This facility, which is also used for ERA funded research, has the potential to transform future energy systems, reducing the costs of integrating intermittent generation into the electricity system and ensuring power is available when it is most needed.
Manufacturing Technology Centre
The Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC) develops and proves innovative manufacturing processes and technologies in partnership with industry, academia and other institutions. The MTC is working with ERA on the ‘Factory in a Box’ concept, which will allow manufacturers of energy products to have a British technology solution delivered to their doorstep. The mobile factories will use smart sensors, super-fast broadband and big data to measure and control production processes remotely.
Thermal Technologies Laboratory
The Thermal Technologies Laboratory is being enhanced by the provision of further test equipment and data logging facilities. New in-house manufacturing capability is also being provided by the purchase of micro-TIG welding systems and a laser cutter to allow rapid proto-typing of the bespoke heat-exchangers being developed. New thermal baths will extend the ability to test thermal systems that require controlled heating and cooling.
ERA is supporting Loughborough University to enhance existing thermal characterisation facilities and provide testbeds to evaluate thermal storage system performance. Facilities will also support the development of new high performance insulation and building façade systems. The university is also establishing a cryogenic engine test facility to support the development of Cold Engine Technology.